Unknown Territory

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We opened online orders on June 1st with the first delivery and pick up orders on June 8th.
Since then it has been interesting to begin the shift from transforming the business to actually running it.
Our fiscal yearend is June 30th. Entering March, we were only 4 months from year end and everything was on track for a good year.
But then of course, since March 16th, we had no revenue until June 8th and although we were able to significantly reduce our expenses, there were still a lot of expenses to either be paid immediately (like the final payroll) or deferred (like rent across 5 stores).
During the all-in months of the pandemic, our main focus was on cashflow – how much did we have, should we apply for the federal government $40,000 loan (yes), should we request an extension to the line of credit (also yes)?
But now that we are back to earning some revenue, I need to do a business plan for July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.
The tricky part is that after 8 years, we knew what our baseline revenue was in each store and we could use that as a starting point. Now having 3 or maybe 4 fewer stores – and still not sure when office tenants will be coming back downtown- business planning will be a much different process.
The sales we are seeing now are certainly important data for forecasting but beyond that, there is going to be some guesswork.
In past summer months, sales have slowed down a lot because Torontonians go away on vacation or to the cottage – but this year, will more people be staying around the city? And if they do, will they want cupcakes and cakes?
Similarly, when will couples getting married feel comfortable booking their receptions, when will conferences and big family and friend gatherings pick up again, and what will this holiday season be like in terms of parties and corporate gifts?
I am reminded of 2010-11 when we were using a lot of guesswork to make a plan. My general rule is to try to err on the side of caution. Aim to forecast sales you feel confident you can achieve. It is easier to deal with the revenue being higher (and needing to hire more people, or to order more ingredients and packaging) than to be overly optimistic and end up, for example, having perishable products go to waste.
It’s yet another challenge of the pandemic: preparing a business plan that balances what we have learned over the years as a business, with the unknown path ahead for the next 12 months.

About the author

Jean Blacklock

Jean is the president of Toronto's best cupcake and cake bakery - Prairie Girl Bakery. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock

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